By Evan Midford, Website & Social Media Coordinator
Is Poor Posture at Work the Cause of Your Back Or Neck Pain?
Whether you’re sitting at a desk, standing at a cash register, or even working from home, you’ve likely experienced pain or discomfort because of your posture, or so you think.
Does Perfect Posture Exist?
The short answer is yes, but this alone won’t prevent the feelings of pain and discomfort. Dr. David Binder of Harvard Health says that any posture held for a long period will cause pain or discomfort because of muscle fatigue. He goes on to recommend that the best remedy for mitigating this type of pain is by exercising every day with a well-rounded routine. He also recommends that those of us who sit at a desk should take frequent breaks to stand up and stretch, to give our spines and muscles a break.
Common Workplace Injuries
Pain is a personal experience influenced by many factors, and it’s important to understand that it’s different for everyone. The most common workplace injuries and conditions often include neck and back pain, pinched nerves, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s a breakdown of the risks of each common workplace injury:
Neck and back pain can fall under two categories: specific and non-specific.
Specific spinal-related pain is not very common and accounts for a small percentage of back and neck pain. These types of injuries include fractures, tumours, inflammatory conditions, disc herniations, and nerve-related injuries.
Non-specific spinal-related pain accounts for a large percentage of back and neck pain experienced in the workplace. Although not life-threatening, this type of pain can cause discomfort and typically includes the following injuries: muscle tension, muscle tightness, joint stiffness, and muscle spasms.
Pinched Nerves: Our nerves can be irritated by prolonged compression, which is a sensation similar to your foot falling asleep. Inflammation might also be a trigger, which causes an aching or burning sensation that travels and spreads throughout an area of your body.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Most often, carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness and tingling in the hands. In more advanced cases, you’d experience weakened thumb muscles. Wrist and forearm pain is often mistaken as CTS, where it can be sore from overuse or a new or increased intensity in use. This type of pain is myofascial – which again is an inflammatory muscle condition.
Balance is key to performing our best at work. These best practices will cover things we can do while we’re on the clock but also things we can try outside of work:
- Sleep is the most important factor as it gives your body time to recover, improving your energy levels, mood, and alertness to take on the day.
- Frequent breaks are highly encouraged when sitting for long periods. Set a timer to change positions or to stretch to give your back and neck much-needed relief.
- Exercise outside of work is a great way to balance the inevitable sitting posture of a typical 9-5. This helps improve the strength and flexibility of your muscles which will help when you’re sitting for long periods.
- Investing in ergonomic products is not a cure-all but works great when combined with these other best practices. Ergonomic products like a keyboard, mouse, lumbar support, and desk can be integrated into your workspace to give you relief with common muscle groups.
Staying in the same position for a long period, whether that be perfect posture or not, will cause you pain or discomfort. It’s recommended you take frequent breaks to stretch and exercise outside of work to build up strength and flexibility in your muscles. If you’re concerned about your pain or discomfort, book an appointment with one of the experienced clinicians at the Sport Manitoba Clinic.
Senior Physical Therapist | Brian Buffie MPT, BKin
Harvard Health | Heidi Godman, Dr. David binder
Harvard Health | Why good posture matters.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke